If you ask people what they think of when they think of Minnesota I’m willing to bet that at least 9 out of 10 will say the word “COLD”.
Listen – the way people talk about winter here – it’s a scare tactic. Pull your big girl pants up and I’ll give you the reality – you may still be scared, and if so, I don’t know what to say to you except… you’re a wimp. Just kidding! (or AM I?!?)
It’s Labor Day weekend, most people in the rest of the country are indulging in the last bit of summer, secure in the knowledge that they won’t be super cold for several months to come, but weather reports for northern MN include the word “frost” in the forecast and we have highs in the low 50’s and lows in the low 40’s this week here in the balmy southern part of the state. It’s not going to stick – we’ll have some warmer temps but it HAS made me turn my thoughts to winter and all of the people that are moving here and are worried about what to expect. Side note- I had a weird thought about how everyone that I’ve been working with lately is from a distinctly warmer climate, and then I got a hold of myself and realized that pretty much every state is south of ours… so there’s that.
Minnesota has some pretty extreme temperature changes – from very humid highs in the 90’s in summer to -25 (or more- I won’t scare you by giving you a number) in the winter.
The debate rages every year at this time whether or not to turn on the heat. If you are a True Minnestotan®, you may believe that the only proper time for heat is November 1. I am NOT a True Minnesotan® – I’m a transplant, which means I have nothing to prove, so here is my take on it. I’m going to give you a list of the basics.
- Turn the heat on when it gets cold. You probably don’t need me to tell you this. We do a mix of heat in the morning followed by open windows later afternoon September through October. In general, I would keep this to myself to avoid scorn.
- You’re not too cool for long johns. Layers are your friend! Every layer creates a pocket of warm air between the next and you want that. I go way off the deep end for many people and say that if you’re outside for any length of time, wear snow pants. They are life changing. Having a full 50% of your body insulated from cold makes your whole world better.
- The car itself…Make sure you have a gas tank that is over 50% full and a cell phone charger in your car at all times. If you park outside and it seems like there might be “weather” – pull your wiper blades up so they don’t stick to the windshield and you can scrape. Which brings me to scraping – I lived in Atlanta for a long time and didn’t own a scraper. It’s a necessity here. Get one with a long handle and a brush because you are supposed to clear your ENTIRE CAR of snow so you don’t have it blinding drivers behind you! Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
- Have your car stocked… I like to keep granola bars, extra hats and gloves, a small blanket, a flashlight, and jumper cables in my car. They make little fold up shovels that come in handy if you get stuck. I also like to keep a bag of old school kitty litter in my trunk. It adds a little weight and if you need it to help you get unstuck on ice, it’s there. Minnesotans generally have an “we’re all in this together” attitude – if you do get stuck you’ll likely have someone helping push you out shortly.
- Beware the neighbors – you can start a really hot back and forth by shoveling someone else’s walk. My husband got a nice snow thrower a few years ago and he was really enthusiastic about using it and started clearing neighbor’s walks and drives – this cannot go unanswered! We would wake up in the morning and someone would have done a stealth shovel at our house during the night. I mean… You know what comes next. We can’t allow that kindness to go unanswered and now we have to shovel their walk at like 3am to beat them. It’s a sickness.
- Move your body & go outside! You’ll deal well with Minnesota winters if you don’t let them handicap you and keep you confined to your house! Most people here seem to look forward to and embrace winter. You won’t see a huge drop in outdoor activity, it just changes. People still bike ride all the way through winter they just switch to Fat Tire bikes, if you don’t know how to ice skate or ski – now is your chance! If you want something requiring far less coordination – go with snow shoeing! It’s just walking but you don’t sink into deep snow. Kids – sledding hills are MOBBED all winter. Many walking paths are cleared and maintained all winter long. It makes a huge difference in your ability to deal with short days and cold weather if you have a good attitude and don’t stay inside.
- Winter clothes start hitting the shelves in August… I know. You don’t have to wear them then, but I WOULD consider buying them then. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Insulated and water proof boots are really important. Things sell quickly, so don’t wait.
- Create a cozy atmosphere at home. We like to light candles or the fireplace by about 4:30 in the depths of winter. Everyone in my house has a favorite cozy blanket to sit under and a good pair of slippers. I also have lots of smaller lamps or lights in different parts of the house that beat back the gloom and make those spaces a draw.
Those are my tips! I have confidence in you! You can do it!